The Siege of Leningrad lasted for about 2,5 years. And Germans cooperated with Finns during the siege. As we know Wehrmacht dominated the battlefield in 1941 and 1942.

So why couldn't they capture the city having such big forces at their disposal for several years?

  • Have you done any preliminary research? This question risks being closed as opinion based (although the current VtC are for "Off Topic". Ultimately every battle is about whether either side can force the other to capitulate; in the case of Leningrad, the Wehrmacht could not impose their wills on the citizens of Leningrad.
    – MCW
    Jan 4, 2016 at 12:36
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    The Finns did not want to capture Leningrad. They occupied their own territory taken from them in the Winter war, and stopped their offensive, resisting all requests of the Germans to help them capture Leningrad.
    – Alex
    Jan 4, 2016 at 14:11
  • @Alex They occupied their own territory taken from them in the Winter war, and stopped their offensive That's not true. First, they were allies with Germany, not just tried "to take their own". Second, they crossed "old border" but were stopped by Soviet army in 1941. They didn't continue offense in 1942 by both military (army degradation) and political (secret talks to USA and England) reasons. Also there was a plan of destroying Leningrad and moving the border upto Neva.
    – Matt
    Jan 4, 2016 at 14:27
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    That rather smack of Soviet revisionism. The consensus view agrees with Alex here; the Finnish Army retook their old territory and then declined German requests to proceed further on the Leningrad front (apart from some minor pieces to establish a proper frontline). The plans to raze Leningrad were German, not Finnish.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 4, 2016 at 15:52
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    @Matt: Actually, I've heard a 2-degrees-of-separation story (that is, told by a friend of a WWII participant) that the Finnish side of Leningrad blockade was relatively calm: Finns did in fact reach the original border and then just stayed there. The German side was far more active.
    – Michael
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:54

2 Answers 2


The Nazis did not plan to capture Leningrad at this point. Rather, their plan was to drive many people into Leningrad and then starve them there, as laid out in the Hunger Plan. The Hunger Plan called for the mass murder of 20 million people via starvation.

The wikipedia on the siege of Leningrad has also some details:

Army Group North under Feldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb advanced to Leningrad, its primary objective. Von Leeb's plan called for capturing the city on the move, but due to Hitler's recall of 4th Panzer Group (persuaded by his Chief of General Staff, Franz Halder, to transfer this south to participate in Fedor von Bock's push for Moscow), von Leeb had to lay the city under siege indefinitely after reaching the shores of Lake Ladoga, while trying to complete the encirclement and reaching the Finnish Army under Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim waiting at the Svir River, east of Leningrad.

Finnish military forces were located north of Leningrad, while German forces occupied territories to the south. Both German and Finnish forces had the goal of encircling Leningrad and maintaining the blockade perimeter, thus cutting off all communication with the city and preventing the defenders from receiving any supplies. The Germans planned on lack of food being their chief weapon against the citizens; German scientists had calculated that the city would reach starvation after only a few weeks.

I think it likely that local Wehrmacht commanders wanted to take the city at one point or other, but ultimatley the grand strategy called for encircling and siege beforehand.

Despite attempts to feed and evacuate the city via the frozen lake, a million civilians lost their lives. The conditions in the city were desperate, to put it very mildly.

I think this question comes from looking at the siege of Leningrad as a purely military set piece, and sees just a baffling military decision to not take the city. I think you need to look at the political and economic goals of the Nazis, and at the immense suffering of the people in Leningrad.

Further Details on the Hunger Plan can be found in Götz Aly's "Vordenker der Vernichtung"
and Felix Wemheuer's "Der Große Hunger: Hungersnöte unter Stalin und Mao"
Both should be available in english.
If you read German, here's a lengthy excerpt about the Hunger Plan and the siege of Leningrad from the latter.


In short, in 1941 they failed, and in 1942 they didn't try.

They were pretty close in August-September 1941, but failed to break the defence. Then Hitler decided not to continue storming. The motivation was that Leningrad itself was no use for Germany, but the destruction of the city might have some propagandistic effect. Hitler believed that the blockade would be the fastest (there was no plan for winter offense on Leningrad, anyway) and easiest (no need for infantry reinforcements; only artillery and air-force) way to achieve that.

Actually in 1942 it was Red Army who attacked and sought to end the blockade. And although Soviet offense in 1942 was completely unsuccessful, but Germany already had no chance to take the city.

P.S. As for Finns "trying to retake own territory", I think it's useful for all revisionists to see once again at the picture evidence from Nuremberg trial:

Russian children in a Finnish-run transfer camp in Petrozavodsk in the end of June, 1944

Russian children in a Finnish-run transfer camp in Petrozavodsk in the end of June, 1944; source

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